Grist: ‘Irreverent’ Outlet Celebrated by Foundations, Media
By Aly Nielsen
Grist Magazine is the brainchild of Chip Giller, who “had been an environmentalist since he was a child,” Poynter reported. Giller founded Grist in 1999, while he was a reporter for the environmental magazine, High Country News. He wanted to “lighten up” the environmental movement.
Grist grew from an email list of 100 subscribers to a web-based organization with an annual operating budget of more than $3.8 million and 30 employees.
Yet Grist still remains a self-described source of “irreverent” environmental news. “At Grist, we’re making lemonade out of the looming climate apocalypse,” the website quips.
Grist’s interpretation of “irreverent” often takes a downright vulgar tone.
Grist, alongside other liberal outlets, personally attacked Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell in 2016 when rumors spread he may head the EPA during the Trump Administration.
In 2015, Grist grunted, “We are literally breaking polar bear penises now.” Grist also labeled a former coal CEO as “frightening and sociopathic” in 2014. Perhaps most shocking, Grist columnist David Roberts took the now-common climate “denier” language so far in 2006, he called for a “climate Nuremberg” for “bastards” who question climate change. Roberts later apologized for his statements.
Despite Grist’s offensive climate change approach, media outlets including The Huffington Post and Glamour regularly reference Grist.
In May 2016, The Huffington Post republished a Grist story celebrating Al Gore’s climate slideshow “An Inconvenient Truth.” In July, The Huffington Post again repurposed a Grist story claiming “Mike Pence’s Loose Grip on Reality is Almost as Bad as Trump’s.” The Huffington Post also promoted Grist’s “synthetic biology” foods hatred; “cheap clothes” opposition; and conviction that Jill Stein was not liberal enough on the environment.
Glamour magazine also picked up Grist’s anti-cheap clothes video and encouraged its readers to “get crafty” by turning old clothes into “rags or something fun” instead of throwing them out. In 2011, Glamour promoted Grist’s call for penguin sweaters to “keep oil-soaked birds warm until they’re well enough to be cleaned.”
In November 2016, The Huffington Post published an article claiming that “Ranch Dressing is what’s wrong with America.” The article, written by Grist staff writer Ben Alder, condemned ranch dressing because it was “more carbon-intensive than vegetables.” The Chicago Tribune also ran the story.
Even The New York Times turned to Grist in 2016. Author Katie Galbraith included recommendations from Giller in her April article on “environmentally friendly vacations.”
Media outlets don’t just cite Grist. In the past 16 years, at least six organizations gave Giller awards for his radical, unconventional climate activism.
In 2001, Giller received AlterNet’s first annual New Media Hero award for making Grist an internet success. “I wanted to create a publication that would engage a large audience and motivate them to take action. The way to do this was to have an attitude and to use humor in unexpected ways,” Giller told AlterNet at the time.
Three years later, the Tides Foundation gave Giller its Excellence in Public Activism award for his work in “Environmental Journalism.” “Grist often pairs its news stories with opportunities for readers to take action,” Tides lauded.
The National Wildlife Federation gave Grist its National Conservation Achievement Award in communications for 2005. “From politics to protests, from food and health to national security, from romance to travel to art, Grist shows how the environment ties into every life, every day,” National Wildlife Federation CEO Larry Schweiger said.
In 2007, Time Magazine highlighted Giller as one of the “Heros of the Environment:” “the most innovative and influential protectors of the planet.” Time praised Giller for working “to rebrand the environmental movement, turning the focus towards sustainable lifestyles, not just save-the-whale campaigns.”
Giller received the Heinz Award (which honors individuals who exemplify characteristics of the late Pennsylvania Sen. John Heinz) in 2009 for founding Grist, which “can be credited with attracting a new generation of environmentalists by reaching readers in their 20s and 30s.”
Since founding Grist in 1999, Giller has filled the board with like-minded climate activists and liberals.
There’s Benjamin Strauss, the Grist Board of Directors clerk, who is also Vice President for Climate Impacts at Climate Central. Strauss has repeatedly pushed climate-alarmist rhetoric. Climate Central is funded by the Marisla Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Schmidt Family Foundation, and others.
Schmidt Family Foundation president, Wendy Schmidt, also serves on Grist’s board. Her foundation has given Grist more than $1 million since 2009. Schmidt is also founding board member of Climate Central, created Climate Central’s 11th Hour Project in 2005, and is a Natural Resources Defense Council board member.
Grist’s board also includes climate-activist and 350.org founder Bill McKibben; Michelle DePasse, a former EPA assistant administrator and current program officer at the Ford Foundation; and Elise Hu, an NPR international correspondent, Texas Tribune political reporter, and adviser to the Knight Foundation.
Susan Kaufman, board member of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, is also on Grist’s board. Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts has been funded by the Buffett Foundation and the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
In the past 18 years, Grist has received more than $3 million from the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and others.